Leader sees power of teamwork as key to success

Leader sees power of teamwork as key to success

J ackson DeFore, ’09, has primarily worked in a supportive role throughout his professional career. He served with the Army National Guard for 10 years, where he served as a combat medic and commissioned officer. 

Jackson DeFore
Jackson DeFore

Today, he uses the teamwork principles he learned in the Army National Guard and at Georgia College in his new role as deputy director for administration and finance for the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC).

DeFore pursued his Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Georgia College’s Warner Robins Campus and the downtown Macon location.

“We would meet downtown at restaurants to cram and discuss topics about our classes and then go to class afterwards,” he said.

Although many of his Georgia College professors influenced his learning, Dr. Stephen Payne was especially attentive to ensuring that students grasped the subject matter.

“Dr. Payne would ask us questions,” DeFore said. “He could tell based on our responses when we didn't completely understand the subject matter. Dr. Payne would stop everything he was doing from his lesson plan and immediately address our needs.” 

Jackson DeFore, pictured far left, received an award at the Georgia Department of Corrections annual Employee Appreciation Awards Ceremony for innovation and process improvement.
Jackson DeFore, pictured far left, received an award at the Georgia Department of Corrections annual Employee Appreciation Awards Ceremony for innovation and process improvement.

Georgia College’s professors taught DeFore that there are a lot of aspects to consider when being decisive.

“They took all of the outside factors and presented them to help us understand that you don't just consider the direct impact of things and make a decision,” DeFore said. “You look at all factors, such as your stakeholders, opportunity cost and long-term investments.”

He also learned the importance of working with a team, as his professors taught by example, working alongside DeFore and his classmates. During class projects, DeFore was frequently put in a leadership role.

“There was no working solo in the MBA program,” DeFore said. “I had to learn to use people to the best of their strengths. I carry that over into my job today, where I make decisions to empower employees to utilize their strengths. Then, I help them improve on their weaknesses.”

In his profession, DeFore knows the value of collaborating with others who have different experiences; this helps him make difficult decisions. 

“Just don't give up. Enjoy where you are now. Seize the moment, and learn from your current job. Even when you’re dealing with hard situations, or if you’re in a job you don’t like, you still must look for the positives and learn from the negatives. Because one day, you may be in a position to use those experiences to make important decisions that affect others in a positive way.”
– Jackson DeFore

“Every day, I'm making hard decisions,” he said. “I’ve learned to make them based on what’s best for the organization. Over the years, I’ve also learned how we can work most effectively and efficiently. Sometimes, the right thing to do is not the most popular thing.”

DeFore collaborates with GDC’s CFO and the chief of staff to work toward completing GDC’s vision.

“We've really done a lot of positive things for GDC over the last few years, and we’re continuing to see the results,” he said. 

Jackson DeFore and his team gathered toys, clothes and gifts for the annual Monroe County CARE Cottage wishlist drive.
Jackson DeFore and his team gathered toys, clothes and gifts for the annual Monroe County CARE Cottage wishlist drive.

Although his work is now in finance, the leadership lessons from his military career and Georgia College contribute to his work each day at GDC. DeFore also knows the importance of mentoring his employees to be the best they can be.

“I have employees that have been with GDC longer than I have, and others are new to the agency. I like to create a vision for all my employees so they can grow and become assets to the agency. Successful employees make GDC better.”

DeFore hopes fellow Georgia College alumni are also able to find success in their field.

“Just don't give up,” DeFore said. “Enjoy where you are now. Seize the moment, and learn from your current job. Even when you’re dealing with hard situations, or if you’re in a job you don’t like, you still must look for the positives and learn from the negatives. Because one day, you may be in a position to use those experiences to make important decisions that affect others in a positive way.”